UK: Imminent plans to remove 60-year old Eritrean asylum-seeker puts him at risk of torture, warns Amnesty

A 60-year old Eritrean asylum seeker will be at risk of arrest, incommunicado detention and torture if the UK removes him to Eritrea as planned, warned Amnesty International today.  The forced removal could take place as early as tomorrow. Amnesty is urging the UK not to remove him and has mobilised supporters to email and fax the Home Office about the case.

Act now to help Yosief Michael Kidane

Yosief Michael Kidane is a member of a prominent Eritrean opposition political party and has participated in political activities in the UK, including demonstrations opposing actions by the Eritrean government. He is at serious risk of arrest on arrival, incommunicado detention, torture and other ill-treatment, for his political activism and for the act of claiming asylum abroad, which Eritrean authorities regard as a betrayal.

The UK government’s own 2009 human rights report, issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, cites “serious concerns” about Eritrea, stating that “basic rights…including the prohibition of arbitrary and indefinite detention, are routinely violated.” The report goes on to detail conditions in detention centres: “Beating and torture are reportedly commonplace and part of a deliberate strategy to weaken detainees and maintain control through the instillation of fear.”

Escaped detainees have reported that the Eritrean authorities are particularly interested in what failed asylum-seekers have said about Eritrea, and see statements about persecution in Eritrea as acts of treason against the state.

Yosief Michael Kidane arrived in the UK in 2002 and applied for asylum in November 2006. The UK authorities rejected his application, and his appeal was dismissed in February 2009. His lawyers subsequently made new claims for international protection and applied for judicial review of the decision to remove him from the UK. These applications have not been successful, despite expert opinions warning that he would be at risk of serious human rights violations if he were forcibly returned to Eritrea.

Jan Shaw, Amnesty International UK Refugee Programme Director said:

“The UK authorities know full well that Eritrea has an appalling human rights record. Perceived critics of the government are locked up in shocking conditions and torture is rife.

“We’ve heard that the Eritrean authorities are particularly interested in failed asylum-seekers who have made ‘treasonous’ claims about persecution in Eritrea. Sending Yosief Michael Kidane back will put him at huge risk and must be stopped.”

Amnesty is asking people to go to www.amnesty.org.uk/asylum to send a message to the Home Office urging that the removal is stopped.

The UK authorities attempted to remove Yosief Michael Kidane from the UK on 4 May this year, but were unable to do so. A further attempt to remove him could take place as early as 7 May. On the morning of 6 May, he was being held at Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, pending his removal from the UK. Amnesty International has seen medical reports expressing concern that he may be unfit to fly, due to two deep vein thromboses.
 
The April 2009 guidelines of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) call on all governments to “refrain from all forced returns of rejected asylum-seekers to Eritrea and grant them complementary forms of protection instead”.  However, the UK authorities maintain that Yosief Michael Kidane is not at risk.

Amnesty supporters are calling on the UK authorities not to forcibly return Yosief Michael Kidane to Eritrea, and to fulfil their obligations under international law, including the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights. These prohibit countries from returning anyone to a country where they would be at risk of torture and other serious human rights violations.

Amnesty is also calling on the UK to allow Yosief Michael Kidane to submit a fresh claim for international protection in the UK and to consider appropriate alternatives to detention. The organisation is urging the UK to follow the guidelines issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and not to return any rejected asylum-seekers to Eritrea where they are at risk of serious human rights violations.

Act now to help Yosief Michael Kidane /p>

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